The old neighborhood

Ann Swanson

Someone posted a photo of the little store that used to be across from the grade school that I attended. I remembered Mrs. Garigali the moment I saw her. I am not sure that all the students respected her as much as I did. That is just the way I was raised.

It got me thinking about all of the little stores that I passed on my way to school.

The little family owned stores were the heart of the community. Everyone knew the owners and their families. The owner greeted you with a smile and a personal greeting. Most of those stores survived until the mid-sixties or early seventies. I am not sure what happened at that point but that was when they began to close. Back to my memories.

I walked to the grade school I attended, yes, back then we all walked and no one worried about us. We even walked home from events held at night. It was about seven or eight blocks with the one which my house was located on a very long block.

Right on the corner were two little stores. There was Dengler’s which was a grocery store. I remember getting little loaves of bread at that store. I think they were samples from the bread bakery. I used to cut small slices and eat the whole loaf a little at a time. I remember going to that store for my neighbor. One time she sent me on my bicycle for a dozen eggs to use for our tuna and egg salad sandwiches. Several of the eggs broke on the way home, but she was not mad.

There was another store on that same corner. The ice cream parlor was run by Mr. and Mrs. Wicks. He was delightful, but she could be a bit of a crab. There was a huge case just as you walked into the store with penny candy. I usually saved a few pennies so I could pick out candy. My favorite penny candy was peach pits. No, they were not real pits, but they were hard candies that tasted and looked like peaches.

A couple of blocks over were Crino’s store. They also sold meat and groceries. Mostly I bought popsicles there. Sometimes I picked a Fudgsicle. The popsicles were the kind that you broke in two and could share. My favorite flavor was banana. We would often go to the store on roller skates. They were the kind that fit over your shoes and fastened to your shoes with a skate key. You had to wear shoes that had a sole so that the skates had something to fasten to.

The next store was Frodelius’s store. I am not sure I have that name spelled right, but I had no way to look it up. They carried school supplies so when I needed paper or a notebook I went there. They also sold groceries. In those days people shopped in their own neighborhood. There were a few larger supermarkets such as the A&P, Nu-way, and Loblaw’s. They were in the downtown area though and were further from home. When you needed something for supper you went to the corner store.

The other store I remember was Mrs. Garigali’s. She also carried school supplies. Of course, there were groceries as well. Mrs. Garigali was so nice. I enjoyed visiting with her while I shopped. I am sure she had to watch for the boys who put things in their pockets.

If I took the girls I babysat for to get popsicles I went to Vick’s store. It was across the tracks so it was accessible since they lived on the other side of the train tracks.

It was not long until a small supermarket opened up just a little way from home. It, too, was a family-owned store. They had a lot more things to choose from. I really liked to shop there. I could walk there if I was not buying a lot of groceries.

Life was different in those days. We did not really think about shopping local but that is what we were doing. Each of those little stores gave a family their livelihood. I knew the children in each of the families. I went to school with them.

You could even say that the community was safer back then. All of our neighbors watched out for everyone. I wish I could say the same thing for today. After my husband died, I used to walk a lot – just for something to do and to get exercise. I did not think anything about walking in the swamp or at the Audubon until a neighbor told me to be careful. He did not like me walking all alone. He feared it was dangerous. Finally, my grandchildren were old enough to walk with me. I so enjoyed those walks. We always saw some wildlife. That, too, has passed since the grandchildren are now all driving on their own.

I guess that I grew up with an innocent outlook. I had always walked everywhere or rode my bicycle. I lived in a small town, but it was not dangerous. Nowadays any place can be dangerous. I cannot pinpoint exactly how and when things changed but they did.

P.S. I do not like the way the world has become. It is the “me” generation – think of yourself first. Everything is faster, but it is not always better. Even though I love my computer, I can see drawbacks. Gaming is a huge issue for many. Also, communication is an issue. I long for the days when things were safe and life was slower. People used to look out for each other. I think that is the way God intended it to be.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

COMMENTS